Portugal to legislate on car hire toll

Almost a year since a proposal was first tabled, the Government and car hire companies finally appear to have agreed on how to stop thousands of tourists from effectively breaking the law for failing to pay tolls on previously unpaid motorways such as the Algarve’s A22 due to administrative flaws, rather than through their own doing.

Portugal tolls and car hireBack in April, The Portugal News exclusively revealed that the Government, car hire companies, national road company Estradas de Portugal and CTT post offices had agreed to a solution to the car hire toll debacle, five months after it was first tabled.

But following initial technical glitches, which delayed its implementation, and hesitation on the part of the government, it is now hoped that the system will be operational before the end of the year.
The Lisbon-based Association for National Car Hire Companies (ARAC) told The Portugal News this week that its suggestion of fitting all hire cars in the Algarve with electronic transponders had been accepted, but a series of hiccups has delayed the solution.

It is now expected that the Government will publish a law decree sometime in early November, allowing car hire companies to charge a small fee.

According to ARAC Secretary-General Joaquim Robalo de Almeida, the proposal it presented last year to the Government will result in all vehicles being fitted with transponders, but their use will be an optional extra.

Customers will be charged a daily administration fee of €1.84 (€1.50 plus VAT) for a maximum of ten days. This system is currently in use at a handful of car hire companies.All charges incurred on tolled motorways across the country, including the A22 in the Algarve will be charged to the driver of the hired vehicle.

In addition to the rental agreement the customer will also sign a contract agreeing that tolls be charged to his account for the duration of the contract.
The details of the vehicle and credit card will be placed on to a CTT database which will be responsible for collecting payment and not the car hire company, as is currently the case at some companies.

The second contract is cancelled immediately upon the return of the vehicle, eliminating concerns of drivers being charged for a previous user’s toll charges.
The ARAC Secretary-General told The Portugal News that while he was happy with the efforts put in by the Government while negotiating a solution to this problem, he says the time it has taken has been unacceptable.

Joaquim Robalo de Almeida warned that a solution needed to come into force to save the Algarve’s reputation being tarnished.
“We need this solution to come into force as soon as possible. Car hire companies are crucial to tourism. Not only are their customers those who spend the most during their visits to the Algarve, which averages around two weeks, but car hire companies are the first and last point of contact a tourist has while in Portugal.
“If their experience is negative at the car hire desk, then this image will be the one they take back home with them and pass on to their friends and family.”

Joaquim Robalo de Almeida explained further that for an industry (tourism) which represents 15 percent of Portugal’s Gross Domestic Product, nobody with the country’s best interests at heart can afford to drag their heels in implementing a solution, which is clearly viable, before any more damage is done.
The ARAC chief said earlier this week that the administration fee was only to make the life of customers easier “and companies will not be making a cent, but we cannot support a cost which is a service provided by Estradas de Portugal and regional road companies.
“This proposal stems from the need to make the lives of customers easier, especially when considering the rising number of complaints we have received since 2010” when tolls were first introduced.

Car hire companies in Portugal share a fleet of 70,000 vehicles and their joint annual revenue is in the region of 500 million euros.


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